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Durham University

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Mr Jake Christopher Richards

Assistant Professor (Modern British History) in the Department of History

(email at jake.c.richards@durham.ac.uk)

I am a historian of slavery and emancipation related to the African diaspora in the South Atlantic world. My first book project is a comparative history of "liberated Africans" (also known as “recaptives”). Britain's parliamentary act to abolish the transatlantic slave trade in 1807, and subsequent laws and international treaties, reclassified captives aboard slave ships as liberated Africans. These laws and treaties sanctioned naval captures of slave ships, established courts to decide on the legality of such captures, subjected the recaptives to indentured apprenticeship for up to fourteen years, and determined post-apprenticeship status. My research investigates the legal and social challenges that these former captives faced. How much did their legal status and social conditions change as a result of becoming liberated Africans? What claims could they make based on their status? How were their lives similar to or different from other workers, including enslaved Africans, freedpeople, and indentured labourers in their places of settlement? By answering these questions, I seek to write a history of the Atlantic world in a century when forced migration, abolition, and British imperial hegemony converged.

Related publications and writing have won prizes from the Royal Historical Society, Transatlantic Studies Association, and American Association of Law Libraries. Research to date has received funding from the AHRC, Banco Santander, and the Royal Historical Society, among other funders. I have presented aspects of my research nationally and internationally, including in London, Cork, Basel, Boston, Cambridge, MA, and College Park, MD.

Presentations in 2019-20 include at the American Association of Law Libraries (webinar), Durham History Society, Institute of Historical Research, and Centre for Modern and Contemporary History, University of Birmingham (please contact me for further details).

I joined Durham in 2019. I previously studied at Cambridge and was also a Visiting Fellow at the Department of African and African-American Studies at Harvard University on a US-UK Fulbright Scholarship (2016-2017). I am also involved in projects that investigate the historical legacies of slavery in institutions, including museums and universities.

Research Interests

  • Slavery and Abolition
  • Atlantic World
  • Empires
  • Legal History

Indicators of Esteem

  • 2019: Alexander Prize, Royal Historical Society:
  • 2017: D. C. Watt Prize, Transatlantic Studies Association:

Selected Publications

Journal Article

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Media Contacts

Available for media contact about:

  • History & Archaeology: Slavery and abolition in Atlantic contexts: South Africa, West Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean.
  • Modern History: Britain & Ireland: Slavery and abolition in Atlantic contexts: South Africa, West Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean.
  • Politicial, cultural, social history: Slavery and abolition in Atlantic contexts: South Africa, West Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean.
  • World perspectives & techniques: Slavery and abolition in Atlantic contexts: South Africa, West Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean.